US-based fundraising website Patreon has removed users linked to the far-right Defend Europe project after lobbying by HOPE not hate

Prominent members of the far-right Defend Europe mission in the Mediterranean have had their accounts blocked on the online payment service, Patreon.

Patreon allows online content creators of all types to receive funds directly from their fans. While the vast majority of users are normal artists, videographers, writers and musicians, there is a small coterie of far-right activists that raise money via the platform.

Until last night this included Defend Europe leaders Martin Sellner and Patrick Lenart, and vocal supporter and activist Lauren Southern. However, Patreon has made the laudable decision to remove all three from its platform.

This comes after several weeks of lobbying by HOPE not hate, which contacted Patreon to raise concerns about far-right activists making money via the service and specifically raised the issue of Defend Europe activists.

A spokesperson for Patreon said;

At Patreon, we believe in freedom of speech. We are creating a platform that empowers creators to share and debate ideas. In this instance, the creators are planning activities that are likely to cause loss of life. This is a violation of our policies and as a result we removed the pages from Patreon. 

This news will come as a significant blow, especially to Lauren Southern, who raised large portions of her income from the site.

While this may not affect Sellner to the same extent, this comes off the back of a sustained and effective #DefundDefendEurope campaign, organised by anti-racist activists including the Sleeping Giants network, that has resulted in Defend Europe bank and PayPal accounts being closed down.

Free speech?

Many on the far right are up in arms at Patreon’s decision, claiming it is a curtailment of Southern’s “right” to free speech. Of course, it is no such thing.

Southern and Sellner absolutely have the right to say what they please, but they do not have the right to raise money via any platform they decides to remove them. Patreon is a private company and it can decide who uses its services.

This is just another example of the far right spuriously, disingenuously and often hypocritically claiming their free speech is being curtailed in the interest of playing the victim.

In reality, Patreon has taken a principled decision that is to be welcomed. While a number of significant far-right figures (including the UK-based vlogger Colin Robertson, aka Millennial Woes) still profit from the website, it is certainly a significant step in the right direction.